October 28

Recording an Acoustic Instrument Using Pro Tools – a Step by Step Tutorial

DSC_0607In my last post I talked about my recording hardware. This week I will talk about how I set up my recording software to record my piano playing.

There are many different DAW (digital audio workstation, or recording software) on the market to choose from. If you are new to home recording, the easiest one to start with is probably going to be Audacity. It is free and very user friendly.  I used Audacity for a while before buying my current interface (M-Audio Fast Track Ultra). Since it came with Pro Tools MP9, I didn’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how I set up Pro Tools for my recording sessions.

Once I open Pro Tools, a window pops up asking me to set up my preferences.

1 starting protools

1. Create a “blank session”, which means to start a new session.

Set the “Audio File Type” to “BWF(.Wav)”, or “Broadcast Wave File”. It stores more metadata, which can be useful if the project file does crash. BWF is also an uncompressed file type, which means it will have the highest sound quality.

Set “Bit Depth” to “24 bit”. This is higher than the standard CD bit depth (16 bit) and will provide a higher sound resolution.

Set “Sample Rate” to “48 kHz”. This is also slightly higher than the standard CD sample rate of 44 kHz. (click images to enlarge)




2 creating new tracks

2. Create tracks. For this example, I will be recording a piano duet, which means I will need to create two separate tracks for each piano. I will record one piano track at a time, and then combine two tracks as the final recording.

To create new tracks, go to “Track – New”, and a window will pop up.  Using the drop down menu, select “create 2 new Stereo Audio Track in Samples” and then click “Create”.  (also see the next image) You can also create the tracks one at a time.

The reason I select “stereo” here is because I am recording with two microphones. If you only record with one microphone, select “mono”.

“Audio Track” is selected when recording acoustic instruments such as a  grand piano.


3 creating master fader


3. After creating the audio tracks, create one “Master Fader” track under “Track-New” like step 2.

Master Fader controls the global volume of all tracks.





4 creating click track

4. If the metronome clicks during recording sessions helps you keep the tempo and rhythm, add a “click track” by going to “Track-Create Click Track”.

After I created the click track, I also noticed the input was not correct on one of my audio tracks and needs to be changed — since my microphones are plugged into channel 1 and 2, I need to select “in 1-2” for the audio tracks input. The headphone I use to monitor the recordings is plugged into channel 1/2, so the output need to be “Out 1-2”  for me to hear the playback during the recording sessions.


5 setting buffer size6 setting buffer size2

5. Next we want to set the buffer size by going to “Setup-Playback Engine”. Make sure the “H/W Buffer Size” is set to “128 Samples” and then click “ok”.  A smaller buffer size during the recording will cause less latency (sound delay).




**After this step, click  “command = ” on a mac (or go to “window-edit”) to bring up the “edit window” as shown in the following image. Clicking the shortcut “command =” to switch between the mix window (images in step 3 and 4) and edit window (images below)** 


8 renaming tracks2

7 bringing up transport window

6. Be sure to rename each track for easy reference. The master fader and click track were automatically named “Master 1” and “click” when the tracks were created. However, the audio tracks were named “Audio 1” and “Audio 2” by default when they were created, which did not indicate what instrument they were for. Even though the example I am using here currently only has two audio tracks, we want to establish a good habit of re-naming tracks in case we want to add more instruments in the future. Double click “Audio 1” and “Audio 2” and rename the tracks as “Piano 1” and “Piano 2”




7. Next, bring up the “transport” window by going to “Window- Transport”, and then click the red “record” button.






9 record enable


8. Before you hit “play” on the transport bar to start recording  (clicking the space bar will also start/stop the recording), make sure the track you want to record onto is “record enabled” by clicking the red “record enable” button on that track. In this image we can see Piano 1 is record enabled while Piano 2 is not,  so when I click “play” or the space bar, only Piano 1 is recording.



10 bounce



9. When the recording is finished, go to “file” and save the whole session as a pro tool  project file. If you are happy with the result and want to share an mp3 file with your friend, click “File- Bounce to” and export the audio file as mp3. When doing so, be aware mp3 is a compressed file, which means it does not preserve the highest sound quality as the original recording.

And that’s it! We’re done! Hope you enjoyed the post. 🙂






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Posted October 28, 2013 by admin in category "home studio set up

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